Internationally renowned public artist Fintan Magee was selected to paint to external murals as part of the Dubbo hosptial Redevelopment. The picture depicts local bush food and the role of food in health. Fintan completed these works in March 2020.
The link between art and health outcomes around the world are now well documented. Hospitals internationally and across Australia recognise the importance of art in the psychology of healing and wellbeing. The value of the arts in health has been acknowledged in Australia by the National Arts and Health Framework and more recently in the NSW Health and The Arts Framework.
This documentation have guided the arts and culture strategy for the Dubbo Hospital Redevelopment Stages 3 + 4.
Our methodology and approach has included:
• Looking at how the art program can contribute to the whole identity of the hospital site, imbuing it with unique identity and sense of place. Integrating art into hospital’s spaces, adding a layer of beauty and narrative to the concept of wellness.
• Development of a diverse range of art experiences, applied in strategic locations, designed to soothe, relax and delight. Providing a solid foundation upon which to build a welcoming environment for patients, families and staff.
• Reviewing stakeholder consultation documentation and liaison with local creative industries including The Western Plains Cultural Centre.
• Providing value for money through streamlined procurement methods, developing artworks to be used across multiple sites and engaging the community to create collaborative artworks.
• Developing projects which will contribute to cultural, social and environmental sustainability. Including artist professional development, capacity building, mentorships and educational opportunities.
• Developing art projects which meet national benchmarks for art and design in a hospital setting.
The Dubbo Hospital art strategy aims to deliver a cohesive and complimentary collection of artworks which address priority sites and focus on the needs of patients, staff and visitors within the Dubbo Hospital catchment area. Two main curatorial themes have been developed to inform the commissioned artworks: Dubbo’s Waterways The spiritual connection of water to health and healing As Dubbo’s traditional owners. the life and identity of the Tubbagah People of the Wiradjuri Nation has been sustained by the local rivers and floodplains. These people see themselves as an integral part of the river system. A holistic understanding and connection to the waterways gives them a strong sense of responsibility for the health of the rivers, water planning and management. In Aboriginal beliefs, if only the body is treated, then healing cannot take place properly. If the body becomes ill, then the spirit and mind are also affected. In the same way, it is believed that before the body becomes sick, there are often signs of the impending sickness apparent in the mental or spiritual status of the person. Preventive steps thus can be taken by addressing the person’s spiritual needs early on. Keeping the spirit strong was seen as practising preventive medicine.
The waterways also provided Aboriginal people with rich and abundant sources of food, water and shelter. Shell middens largely comprising freshwater mussel shells interspersed with bone remnants from wallabies, yabbies, lizards, fish and birds give clues as to the original diet and density of population of Aboriginal people. They also collected plant seeds and roots for food and medicinal purposes. Some Aboriginal creation stories describe the Rainbow Serpent as the creator of rivers, streams and waterholes. Known by many names, the serpent moved across the land, carving the landscape with its long and powerful body. Aboriginal people believe the Rainbow Serpent moves into the river from its resting places in nearby water holes to cleanse the rivers and their people. In responding to this theme artists should consider Dubbo’s important Rivers: The Bogan and the Macquarie The Wiradjuri people knew the Macquarie River as the ‘Wambool’. ‘Bogan’ is an Aboriginal term meaning ‘the birthplace of a notable headman of the local tribe’.
Faces of Regional Australia
A safe and welcoming place
This is a hospital that welcomes a large demographic. According to the 2016 census, the most common reported ancestries of birth for the population of Dubbo are Australian, English and Irish. 76.8% of residents report both parents having been born in Australia – this is significantly higher than the national average of 47.3% 14.8% of residents were recorded as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders. However, due to the large catchment area of the hospital, the percentage of Aboriginal patients is in reality much higher. For example, an estimated 20% of maternity patients are Aboriginal. For those who have travelled far from home, a familiar face can erase a gnawing fear of the unknown. A first visit to hospital may be fraught with a sense of dread and it is important that Aboriginal people in particular are welcomed warmly in a visual sense. Artistic and uplifting images of health workers or elders from the broader regional community and/or local recognisable characters may provide a comforting presence. The need to belong, be connected and engaged in a group is intrinsic to mental health and well being. A welcoming environment encourages patients towards a positive mind-set in their journey towards healing and better health. Human connection involves being seen, heard and valued. The feeling of being valued can be subtly conveyed through a familiar visual context or narrative that sustains a variety of ages and peoples.
Four major artwork projects have been approved by the Hospital’s Arts + Culture Committee:
Reaching Out This project involves the commissioning of a large suspended kinetic sculpture for the hospital’s main entry and large atrium space. The artwork will be designed to create a warm and welcoming experience for patients, visitors and staff. Thematically, the artwork will reflect the huge catchment area of the hospital and its role of treating patients from near and far. The theme of Dubbo hospital as a healing centre for the greater Western Plains region is of particular significance to this project.
Safe Haven This project involves commissioning a contemporary mural for the large vertical walls facing the main entrance and carpark. The artist will incorporate natural elements such as rivers and plants into their design. This project seeks to make a positive and uplifting first impression for those arriving at the hospital. This project aims to capitalise on the huge popularity of contemporary urban art around the world (and increasingly in Australian regional towns), it also provides a cost effective and high impact building treatment.
Friendly Faces A photographic project where an artist travels throughout the DHS catchment area to capture portraits of the wider community. This project involves using the rich colour palette of the local natural environment to display familiar faces of regional health workers, elders or other recognisable community figures. Portraits would be presented in a contemporary format, on large canvasses, framed prints and integrated wallpapers in rich colours. The objective being to convey a feeling of optimism and familiarity.
Nature + Healing A fine art project where original artworks by collectable artists are created specifically for the hospital spaces - this would include original artworks for prominent locations and digitisation of imagery for integrated wallpaper and privacy glazing. This project pays tribute to the importance of the natural environment, the sun, waterways and bush landscape as an intrinsic part of the healing process in Aboriginal mythology. Images of outdoor spaces and details of plants and river vegetation in and around Dubbo will be applied by an artist through print, photography or paint mediums used through patient lounges and clinical areas of the hospital. On a small scale, these images would be framed but on a larger scale, images could be applied to walls through the application of large scale graphics.